The City of Lawton’s Response To The Online Bill Pay Issues
The last few months have been full of online rants about the confusing and seemingly constant malfunctioning of Lawton's new in-house utility and water bill pay system. Since so many people are complaining about their experiences online, I thought I'd reach out to offer the other half of that story.
City of Lawton Finance Director Joe Don Dunham offered this statement:
The City of Lawton is working to correct all issues with the new software. The conversion of the utility billing software is a part of a much larger software conversion the City of Lawton is going through. The issues you bring up, i.e., log in problems and multiple billings of the same statement have been corrected. There are other encounters which have presented themselves in the software that the staff is currently working through. The staff at the City of Lawton takes these challenges very seriously and is striving to make things the best they can be and ensure the citizens are presented an error free invoice for services which are provided.
You and I have talked before about how quick people are to rush to judgment, especially when any kind of change has happened. Lawton rolled the dice on new technology to allow online bill pay and it has some growing pains. It's human nature to be upset when things don't work exactly as they're supposed to.
As you can see above, the official word is they're working to correct the issues at hand, but ongoing allegations of shenanigans on social media contradict that statement. That's not to say the city is wrong, they're acknowledging the problems and have been working to correct them for the past few months.
I think it's safe to say anyone that has signed up for the online bill pay has received several random bills showing zero balances from past billing cycles... that's understandable as they try to mesh and migrate the previous system into the new program. Confusing, sure, but no harm no foul.
The login issues that everyone has ranted about for the last few months are another common complaint across local social media. Again, as they merge old data into the new system, it's just a first-world problem some have to deal with. Others more than some.
While the official statement on the login issues remains it "has been corrected," there are some residents that are still experiencing this problem even as the statement was issued.
It's a problem that seemingly persists. I know through my own experience, twice I've had to have the wonderful staff at the utility desk delete my entire account with the only option being "Try to sign back up." Once earlier this year, most recently this month. However, it did provide me an opportunity to speak with some that work in city hall.
So Aggravating, City Employees Won't Even Use It
Even though I would never consider myself a journalist, mostly out of respect for actual journalists... and the fact I make my living by telling fart jokes on the radio, I do get to enjoy some of those journalistic privileges. I have a friendly report with those in our local government and I'm allowed to keep any quoted source completely anonymous.
Earlier this month, my utility bill issues eventually earned me a trip to Lawton City Hall in an attempt to correct my problems. Spoiler, it didn't, but I did come away with expert advice straight from a few city employees.
"Don't use the online bill pay. I don't even use it and (I) work here. The Tyler system has created bigger problems in (other) departments, so I just continue dropping a check every month."
It seems the foundation of confidence in the top levels of Lawton's local government is shored up on very shaky piers, keeping true the theory of there being two sides to every story.
Still, no mistake is uncorrectable. Online bill pay worked reliably for a while when sourced out of state, it's not too late for Lawton to take a step back to what worked for the first few years. Of course, there are those who are working tirelessly, for months now, continuing to bring a working version of this in-house for the city. Try to have what little faith remains.
Will the city eventually get this right? Probably... but after six months, it has been stressful enough for some that they've sworn off this attempt to bring city hall into the future. It isn't "when will bill pay work..." It will one day. The question has become "When it finally works, will people still care enough to try again?"